Friday, January 23, 2009

OK Hear Me Out

I swear I must be half Italian or that year or so Sicily really rubbed off on me. I've always loved vinegar: malt, cider, red wine, balsamic.Especially balsamic. You can do anything with it. And this is where the Italian part comes in (and I am getting somewhere with this): not only can you put it in salads or marinate with it but if you add a little sugar and reduce it, it goes great on berries. Anyways, it got me thinking of how to work it into a cake. And I came up with balsamic buttercream. And on the first try it worked. It's got some kinks to work out and when it's worked out I'll share my recipe. I have to admit that if I had a bakery and tried to sell this it probably wouldn't fly off the shelves. It would take quite a bit of convincing and free samples. But it's good. I'm thinking chocolate cake??? Hmmm... I guess that means I have some baking to do.

Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity. --Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Candied Orange Peels Again

OK. You are probably thinking that I'm starting to get obsessed. Not really. At least not yet. We just had a lot of oranges lying around that I was almost certain were going to go bad if we didn't use them. And I was right. But anyways. I broke down the recipe a little and decided to take a new approach this time. Nothing drastic.

I picked a nearly flawless orange. Took my zester / peeler and went at it. I peeled all the way around the orange this time. Last time I peeled from top to bottom and as soon as I started it I realized I wasn't going to get nearly as many peels as I would if I just spiraled down the orange. Then I cut them down to 1" long strips.
Then I dropped them in a small saucepan, just covered them with water then stuck them on the stove to bring to a boil. As soon as they started boiling I took them off and drained them and rinsed with cold water. Basically I blanched them. This time I only did it once. Before, I did it twice. The recipe I followed says you can do it as often as you like. I then took the same small saucepan and put in my sugar water. The recipe is basically 1 part water 3 parts sugar. So that's what I put in: 1 cup water, 3 cups sugar. I stuck that on the stove and brought it up to temp: 130*.
Once it was up to temp I dropped in the blanched orange peels and walked away. Literally. I got too distracted and ignored them too much. The sugar dried up and I had to add more water. If I had paid attention it wouldn't have happened. But really you should drop them in and "walk away" for about 45 minutes but also keep an eye on them. Just don't stir them around.During this distracted time I took my orange and peeled it the rest of the way and enjoyed it and played online with my daughter (I swear, I think she knows more about the computer than me. Maybe she can help me with this blog). And like I said, when the timer went off, I saw that my sugar was all dried up. But no worries, I added one more cup of water and it was just fine. I heated it up just enough to dissolve the sugar crystals and then removed the orange peels, laying them out on parchment paper. I let them dry completely for 24 hours then bagged them up. I've been snacking on them ever since. I'm going to get some good tea and steep these orange peels in with my next cup of hot tea.
Speaking of tea. I took my sugar water and added one more cup of water to make a simple syrup of equal parts sugar and water and added it to my sun tea. There is nothing wasted when you make this.

“Affluence separates people. Poverty knits 'em together. You got some sugar and I don't; I borrow some of yours. Next month you might not have any flour; well, I'll give you some of mine.” --Ray Charles

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What Do Candied Orange Peel, Bread Pudding and Pancakes Have in Common?

Candied Orange Peels
Boy did I have a busy day. I started out by making bread pudding. I had a stale loaf of challah lying around and I wanted to play with an idea. I think I mentioned before that a friend from school gave me an idea to make bread pudding with grand marnier. So, I did. But I also wanted to see how candied orange peels would look, or fit in, with it. So, I found the recipe, or just method in this case, and got down to it. You can find the method here.

You can see they turned out beautifully, or at least I think so. They do kinda look like over salted french fries but when you actually look at them the color orange is beautiful.

But, I did my bread pudding which I use a Paula Deen recipe as my base and modify it to fit what I want. Here it is. I used half Grand Marnier and orange juice in place of vanilla extract and the brady. It didn't come out as orangy as I wished it to be. There's only a slight hint of it, but still very yummy. Next time I'm using straight Grand Marnier in place of the brandy and orange extract in place of vanilla. I would have used extract this time but I forgot to pick it up. Ditzy me.

Then, me and the girls (AKA my mom and daughter) went to the local Children's Museum and stayed way longer than I thought we would or should. And I had breakfast for dinner (a family tradition) to look forward to. And I was making pancakes. Well, my mom brought up that she saw Paula Deen make pancakes that morning and they looked good. So, of course I had to try them. Only thing: she calls for seperated eggs and to fold in the whipped egg whites. Folding in egg whites is the bane of my existence. As an aspiring pastry chef I know I should suck it up and get over it but I severely dislike it. And when it comes to pancakes I think it should be like this: throw it in the bowl, throw it on the skillet, throw it on the plate. I'm all for pancakes from scratch but it shouldn't be a production. The best pancakes I've had are just simple muffin method pancakes.

I do have to say they came out just fine but nothing spectacular or amazing. If you want to try it you can find it here. I didn't try the cinnamon cream that you find with the recipe and I only put the chocolate chips in some of them but I'm definitely trying the cinnamon cream next time.

So, I had a Food Network kind of day and I'm exhausted. So, until next time:
“A person can be as sweet as honey or as heavy as steel.” Greek Proverb

Friday, January 9, 2009

This is my cupcake.

And this is me trying to make dinner with my cupcake.

Now back to business. I made a chocolate cake for that consultation on Tuesday and later that day my mom tried some of what I had left over and commented on how dry it was. I always have this issue with basic chocolate cake recipes. You know, the ones on the sides of flour boxes or in the most basic of recipe books. Well, I took the same recipe and finally tried greek yogurt in place of the milk and I also cut the flour by a quarter cup and it was perfect. I've always heard about greek yogurt to help a dry cake but never had it around. But lately I've been snacking on it so it's in the house. I've tried sour cream in place of milk (and it works) but I like the flavor and texture of greek yogurt better.

So anyways, I didn't do anything on the edge or crazy but I got to play around and have fun. But now I have to get a hold of the couple to see if they want to give it another try.

“Your good friend has just taken a piece of cake out of the garbage and eaten it. You will probably need this information when you check me into the Betty Crocker Clinic.” -Cynthia Nixon (as Miranda)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cake Consultations

Getting ready for a cake consultation: my trusty notebook, color/fondant swatches and cake.

So, I'm getting ready for my cake consultation right now. It's cold and nasty and rainy outside and my car's stuck in the mud! Yippee! Great way to start a day! Thankfully I have great parents that are helping me out and lending me their car today.

So, anyways, like I said, I'm getting ready for my cake consult. I've done this before on my own but I still get a little anxious. But I feel good about this one. This could be a fun cake to do if I get the job (I'll post if and when I get the job). They're looking to have a sea theme and they are the reason I was constructing a tugboat out of cardboard. So, I've got my folder of ideas, my notebook, my color swatches, and of course, the cakes. I'M READY! Thank GOD I love doing what I do cause staying up til 2:30 am when you have to get up at 7:30 am wouldn't hack it for anything else.

And to help put a smile on my face today I'm going to quote the great British comedian and actor Eddie Izzard:


"I am an evil giraffe, and I shall eat more leaves from this tree then prehaps I should, so that other giraffes may die." (I threw this in cause my mom, my daughter and I all call each other giraffes. We're all legs and look kinda gawky, but in a good way.)

"Never put a sock in a toaster."

“'ello, Sue. I've got legs. Do you like bread? I've got a French loaf. Bye! I love you”

"I long for a grapefruit."

OK, I got carried away but I love Eddie Izzard and I needed a big smile. And for the most part it's all food related.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Coconut Cake (work in progress) with Pineapple Cream

First of all let me show you my massacred coconut:
It was fun though.

Today I made a cake with the milk. The cake came out OK but I'm still working on it. I'll find a better recipe and do it again. But I made Pineapple Cream Filling for it and it made it work, it was a good balance. The recipe I used is generally what I use to fill my cakes but I also use it on my cupcakes as a taste tester. And I make it so often that I think I can repeat the recipe without cracking the recipe book. It's from a Sylvia Weinstock cake book and it is quite good. The base is her recipe and I wanted to use pineapple:

from Sweet Celebrations: The Art of Decorating Beautiful Cakes
by Sylvia Weinstock
Basic Buttercream Filling
1 large egg
5 egg yolks
2 cups sugar with 1/3 cup water
6 sticks unsalted butter cut into 1/4 sticks
1/4 cup pineapple juice (you could also use pineapple or coconut rum)
20 oz can crushed pineapple, drained and juice reserved

  1. In bowl of electric mixer whip eggs with whisk attachment at medium speed until it turns pale yellow and continue while proceeding to next step.
  2. In medium saucepan mix sugar and water until the sugar soaks up all the water and is mostly dissolved. Use a clean wet pastry brush and clean the edges of the saucepan to keep it from burning. Then over medium heat, boil the sugar until it reaches 240 degrees. Make sure to keep an eye on it.
  3. With mixer still at medium speed slowly add sugar in a stream running down the side of the bowl. Beat for 15 minutes or until the outside of bowl is warm to touch.
  4. Add butter one piece at a time. Let whip until it becomes smooth. Add pineapple juice. Then add crushed pineapple.

And here are my coconut cupcakes with pineapple cream. So far they're a hit. Tomorrow I finish the cake I started today. And now I go to bed! Good night.

“All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much.” --George Harrison (my favorite Beatle)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts... or Actually Just One

I haven't done a cake related quote in my last two posts and I kinda like them so here's one that reminds me of one person in particular and I have a friend who knows exactly who I'm talking about. 

"She tells enough white lies to ice a wedding cake."
Margot Asquith

In cake related news my lovely mom got me a coconut today so I could experiment and tomorrow I make a cake with it! I wish I could show you how I massacred it but I was too into prying it open to document it. Maybe next time. But I got the coconut water (a whole two cups) out of it successfully (meaning I didn't get it all over the kitchen counter and floor). 

In bread related news... I just took challah out of the oven and my house smells heavenly. Silly me let it overproof but it was going to be bread pudding or French Bread anyways. I've got a guy at school that likes my bread pudding and gave me an idea for a new recipe.

Until next time...